Saturday, December 24, 2011

An unexpected Christmas Gift

With Christmas approaching and good will in the air, comes the parties to celebrate the season. Stephanie and I were beaming with excitement! We had been invited to Dr. Rees's (my renal transplant surgeon) house on this Thursday before Christmas for an open house celebration.
We joked saying "How many patients get to go to their surgeon's house for Christmas?"
I mean, he had already given me the ultimate gift! The gift of life!! By creating the Alliance for Paired Donation which allowed a donor to be found, then performing my transplant. What an organization! Without it, I would not be here today...
All started because of a very kind lady that approached Doc one day and wanted to give her kidney to a stranger for no other reason than "she just wanted to help".
To hear Doc tell the story is rather comical. "I thought she was crazy! I couldn't understand why you would want to give your kidney away to a perfect stranger!" So Doc sent her through an extensive psych exam to try to prove she was crazy.
After the examination was complete, the psychiatrist told Doc Rees "She's not crazy, she's just a VERY nice person."
Can you imagine? I laugh every time I hear the story! It is ultimately because of this courageous act of kindness, that I am here today, celebrating Christmas at Dr. Michael & Susan Rees's house.
As we pulled up to the house, it resembled something out of a Thomas Kincaid painting. It was an old turn of the century house with warm lights glowing out of every window. The cold breeze and wet drizzle caused a twinkling reflection of the Christmas lights decorating the houses, trees, and bushes. We walked down wet cobble stone steps that led to the front door. As we drew close, the excitement that was on the other side of the threshold began to grow louder.
When we opened the door and entered this festive setting, Susan greeted us with a sweet smile, warm hello, and a hug. We began walking around mingling with strangers that were quickly becoming friends. Sharing where we were from and how we knew Doc and Susan. I quickly noticed that there were other transplant patients there as well. I was blessed by hearing their stories and the grace in which they had persevered.
Later in the evening, as I was coming back through the foyer, Doc stopped me. He said "Troy, have you met Dusty?"
"No I haven't."
Doc began to introduce me saying "Dusty this is Troy, he has just written a book about his transplant experience!" He went on explaining a little about the story.
Dusty looked over at me and asked "How would I be able to get a book?" I told her that I had some in the van. Then Doc told me to go get them. So I did.
When I returned, I pulled one out of my book bag. Doc grabbed a hold of it, checking it out.
"Keep it I said to Doc!" Then I pulled another out and handed it to Dusty. She began to look it over, asking various questions. We talked for a little bit. Then she said "I am gathering that you might be a man of faith?"

 I laughed "You would be correct."
It was at about this point that Doc jumped in and asked us "have you met the people from Greece?! They're the first trans-continental transplant chain ever started and it was performed just a week ago."
Dusty and I didn't hesitate to go meet Michael and Dora from Greece. As Doc made the introductions, the interpreter relayed the words.
Michael had been on Dialysis for 6 years! Dora, his beautiful faithful wife, lobbied the Greek Parliament to change there law. You see, according to Greek law, you can not receive a kidney from any one but a family member. So flying to the USA and participating in this kidney exchange program (literally) took an act of Congress. Dora had sat on the Parliament steps for weeks just to get someone to listen to her.
Her diligence paid off!
Michael had just received his Christmas present a week and a half before Christmas! I was SO blessed to be standing in such presence! I had never had a conversation with an interpreter before. As I listened to Dora's sweet voice, I didn't know what she was saying until the translator explained. Though I could feel her sincerity and thankfulness. That's an emotion I knew well.
Doc explained to her about the book that I had written. As the translation was being relayed, I could see the look on Dora's face. She began to talk to the translator. The translator said to me "She wants me to ask you if she can get a book? They do not have anything like this in Greece." I immediately took one and gave it to her while the translator explained what the cover said "Another Second Chance ...God's Story"
I could see the gratitude in her expression as she put her hand over her mouth. She turned to Michael and showed him the book. She then walked to me and held my hands expressing her thanks (I didn't need a translator for this) She kissed me on each cheek. My eyes began to tear up as I looked over at Stephanie doing the same. I knew once again why I was meant to write this book. Thank you God for yet another gift!
Doc continued in his introductions. He introduced Dusty to Michael and Dora. "This is Dusty Tyukody. She is the very first altruistic donor. She is the reason that this program exists..." Doc continued.
I was standing next to Dusty at this point. Everything kind of went silent to me as I came to the realization that this was that "Very nice person" that I had heard about. The one that Doc thought was crazy! The one that ended up becoming the president of the Alliance for Paired Donation!The one that allowed me to be hear today!
I took a step away from her and turned and just smiled from ear to ear at her. She smiled back. I said "YOUR the one!"

"It's because of you that I am alive today!" I gave her a big hug and said "your not paying me for that book, it's for you. You helped create it."
We chatted a little longer, then Dusty said "Today is my 7 year anniversary of donating my kidney." Everyone began to express their congratulations as I stood in AWE...

7 years ago.. What were the odds? Of all days and of all years. Not 6, not 8 or 9; but 7 years! Just like in "Another Second Chance ...God's Story" the number 7 came up again as a confirmation from God. Just to let me know that this was a gift from Him. I had know idea who Dusty was or that she was even at the party. But God did...

 "I am going to go home now. I have a book that I have to start reading" Dusty said as she made her way out.
God blessed me with an early Christmas gift this year. Joy, Peace, and Happiness. Something that can't be bought or earned.

Thank you Lord for yet another confirmation and an encounter with your Grace!!
The walk continues...